The future of construction

Balfour Beatty executive predicts bright promise for 3D technology

Nick Lerner
26 October 2013

3 min read

Balfour Beatty, which employs about 50,000 people worldwide, is recognized as a world-class infrastructure lifecycle services business. Compass spoke with Dr. Chris Millard, business efficiency director at Balfour Beatty’s UK Construction Division, about integrated project delivery and collaborative construction.

COMPASS: Can you give us a brief picture of Balfour Beatty and your position within it?

CHRIS MILLARD: Innovation, sustainability and delivery capability are key themes that I address at Balfour Beatty. I work across the company with teams drawn from all areas of expertise within and beyond our enterprise. We work on transport, power, social infrastructure for education, health and sport, utilities, accommodation and leisure, and retail assets. I introduce management and leadership principles and practices that improve efficiency and cut project waste by up to 60%.

Can you outline the construction industry’s major challenges?

CM: A flat economy and reductions in infrastructure spending mean that we must deliver more value to stakeholders. We can achieve this when a focus on sustainability also delivers and maintains recognizable value for customers. Cutting waste has financial and ecological benefits. Consistently driving business efficiency with integrated, systematic improvements is a best-practice prerequisite. It is important to break down information silos and integrate teams to successfully and economically deliver excellent projects.

How do these improvements affect stakeholders in Public Private Partnerships (PPP) and Private Finance Initiatives (PFI)?

CM: One of the key requirements of PPP and PFI involvement is to optimize and demonstrate value across project lifecycles. Constructively engaging stakeholders with 3D simulation and visualization technology early in the project, so that everyone sees and agrees on the end result, allows us to more accurately understand and innovatively meet their needs. Modeling and simulating projects and budgets through their lifecycles provides a basis for this transparency. Virtual Reality also boosts stakeholder confidence by empowering us to establish and enhance the performance of buildings while minimizing operation and maintenance costs.

Dr. Chris Millard, business efficiency director at Balfour Beatty’s UK Construction Division

How do integrated project delivery and collaborative construction benefit the construction industry, when compared to traditional processes?

CM: Traditionally, the construction industry has been fragmented, with sequential processes: brief, estimate, tender, re-design, re-tender, create work packages, build, etc. Many companies still operate this way, and it is clearly wasteful. We gain real value by integrating project delivery and supply chain partners early in the design phase. Multi-disciplined teams jointly plan and iterate to define better solutions.


Balfour Beatty’s collaborative construction practices cut project waste by up to 60%, carbon dioxide by 42%, and direct water use by 54% (2010-12).

Can you cite an example?

CM: The 2012 Olympics’ Aquatic Centre in London brought together multifunctional teams of structural, mechanical, architectural, civil services and ground engineers on a highly innovative project with many technical and operational challenges.

The complexities included sinking pilings nine meters below the water table on a constrained site and the engineering and construction of the high, unsupported, dual-curvature roof. The beauty, functionality and legacy of the Aquatic Centre are testaments to the benefits of collaborative construction within an integrated project delivery framework.

How much integrated project delivery and collaborative construction happens in the industry today?

CM: ‘Not enough,’ is the blunt answer. However, informed sectors of the industry recognize and capitalize on process improvement. When the economy picks up, those with appropriate processes will be prepared, ready and able to maximize their advantage, while others become unsustainable.

What must companies do to achieve these benefits?

CM: Government strategies in some countries offer support to companies that want to adopt integrated project delivery programs. Resources are available from leading industry players and potential partners. Business transformation partners are popularizing collaborative ways of working and helping to liberate value through technology. A critical mass of understanding and commitment among senior business leaders throughout the industry has also been reached.

How do integrated project delivery and collaborative project handling change people’s experiences?

CM: These approaches help people experience transformative levels of understanding. The ability to fully comprehend stakeholder requirements leads to more innovative, timely and cost-effective solutions. It is important on a project to give stakeholders universal access to 3D data in meaningful ways.
3D simulation changes perceptions and lets people make better and more fully informed decisions.

How do owners’ lifecycle cost considerations fit with this?

CM: Engaging owners around fully featured 3D models and realistically virtualizing future assets encourages rich, early dialogue. In complex facilities, 3D models enable owners to plan for maintenance without shutdowns. Owners place a high value on budget transparency and easy access to information. With 3D, these advantages are built into projects from their inception.

What is your vision for the construction industry?

CM: Working to, and executing, a plan based on a unified and collaborative experience platform offers huge benefits. We need sustainable, adaptable, reconfigurable buildings and infrastructure assets. 3D, digital modeling, process change, and using technology for integration and collaboration all help to achieve this goal and positively contribute to society’s well-being. I would like to see the construction industry accelerate its uptake.

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